This day was a typical day on the chukar hills. We parked at the base of the mountain, and began to prepare for the day's excursion. All the appropriate gear was being accounted for as we anticipated the two mile hike up a ridge line that a mountain goat would dread. Gear included: game bag, shells, water, snacks, talkabouts, gaiters, etc…. As a side note, if we were with my other good hunting buddy, gear would include: duct tape, string, toilet paper, matches, compass, aluminum foil, toothbrush, and any other thing that you might find in a pocket of McGyver's pants.
I make light of this, but on one occasion, I sure appreciated the toilet paper he brought, not to mention the other items he stashed in his bag that have been very useful. Back to the original story…all of the gear was accounted for and we were ready. With the guns broke over our shoulders, we started up the hill. About an hour and a half had passed and we were just about to huntable country. What I mean by huntable is, we made it to the south facing slope where we were no longer hiking through two feet of snow.
This was a late season hunt, and fortunately my buddy had blazed a trail when he hunted this area the previous weekend, otherwise the hour and a half would have probably extended to two or more. When we arrived at the ridgeline the canyon was prime chukar habitat just as my friend described. South facing slope, sagebrush mixed with cheat grass and green shoots sprouting from continual melting of winter snow. The hillside included patches of cedar trees that are typically used for shelter from weather or predators. Many rock outcroppings were scattered along the hillside with an open canyon to the south for a quick escape route.
We proceeded in our usual pattern spreading apart 40 yards or so. I took the high position and Steve took the lower. The dogs were eager to hunt due to the long hike without any real opportunity to break out and range. The two young setters were covering the country pretty good. As we approached some thicker sagebrush cover we noticed Steve's young setter acting birdy. Her pace picked up, tail wagging a bit more than usual, typical signs that indicate possible birds in the area. All her motions came to an abrupt stop. Her feathered tail raised to a ten-o-clock position.
I watched as Steve approached her cautiously with a sense of pride. It doesn't matter how many points your dog has had in its lifetime, there is always that feeling of accomplishment when your dog pins down a bird or a covey. The pressure was too much for the bird; it exploded down the canyon accompanied by its screech and whistle, quickly followed up by the top barrel of a Citori 12 gauge. The bird tumbled, and rolled down the mountain about a hundred yards from the spot where flushed.
Due to a head start, my setter Belle picked up the bird. She stopped halfway to catch her breath and when she arrived back to where we were standing there was no bird. With a bit more effort searching the general area of Bell's rest stop, Meg was able to find the bird and complete the retrieve. After Belle allowed Meg the retrieve and we commented about the whole ordeal we pressed forward. As time progressed we separated to cover more country.
If you are getting bored, this is the point of the story that I have been trying to get to. I climbed the hill in a direction towards a nice rock outcropping. As I came through the rocks and approached the ridgeline, Belle stood about twenty yards ahead with her tail high, head high, waiting for my arrival. I took a second or two to regain my breath from the climb. I quickly called to Steve on my radio to be ready below for some high speed feathered rockets passing overhead. That is where I made my mistake. As I approached Belle, out of my radio came "OK, Belle…OK, Belle."
For those unfamiliar with that phrase, it's the typical release command for a dog on point. As Belle started to creep I quickly responded with a soft "Whoa", but again from my radio came "OK, Belle…OK, Belle." Belle stood her ground, but I grabbed my radio to turn the volume down. The covey of chukars took this window of opportunity to bail out.
By the time I shouldered my gun, I basically threw out some desperation lead, which was nothing more than to fulfill Steve's philosophy of "Shoot more, shoot more often". When the smoke cleared and the birds were gone Steve's voice came across the radio waves again. "How did you do, did you get 'em?" I couldn't help but laugh at the situation. As I described the events that transpired, Steve felt a little remorse, but more than anything a sense of accomplishment for the opportunity to have a little fun at my expense!
Long after I stopped using my Citori for chukar hunting, I went up to Oregon with the hunter who got me into this obsession (Spencer) and a virgin chukar hunter we'll call Dave. Dave had a brand spankin' new O/U that he brought with him.
On the long drive to chukar country, Spence and I regaled Dave with the perils that a chukar gun faces. Spencer was also hunting with an O/U, albeit old and beat up. And when I say beat up, I mean beat up. Beat up so much that the barrels were wired together because the weld holding them together had broken in a fall. While I would not recommend hunting with a gun in that condition, it makes for a fine exhibit. We had our neophyte fearing for the safety of his new gun hours before we arrived at our destination.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, the canyons we're snowed in too deep, even for 4WD. Spencer is a professional truck driver and his philosophy is if you can't get in without chains, you're not getting out with them. Being hard headed, I deferred to his greater knowledge AFTER I got my "Yota" truck stuck.
To get back to the story, we ended up hunting the canyon borders for quail. Even on the borders, footing can be treacherous, especially when covered in snow. Our newbee took his first fall less than half an hour from our vehicles. I was only a few feet away and I won't forget the sheer terror on his face as he twisted and contorted his portly body, more dexterously than I could have ever imagined, to save his precious shotgun. He landed on his back with his new pride and joy cradled safely to his chest.
No use wasting hunting time, to wait for someone that may not show up. So, off I went, to Eastern WA to hunt the fabulous chukar partridge. It is only a 2 hour drive to where I would leave the blacktop highway, and drive another 11 miles on a rough and bumpy trail into the Shakke Wildlife area. This is along the breaks of the Columbia River, where we had been getting into a few birds the weekend before.
I was introduced to pointing dogs earlier that fall, and was convinced that I needed a pointer. So, I sold my 3year old chocolate lab, and bought Buck, a young and untrained English Pointer. He could run like the wind, and in doing so, he would run right into the middle of a covey of chukar, before he even knew it. I had been told by my companion, Lynn Jordan, that it would only be a matter of time, and Buck would figure out he was causing the birds to flush. So I just kept hunting him, and he kept scaring the birds. I have to say, that I did get a few shots, and even got a bird now and then. But it was not what I paid the money for. Oh well, I didn't give up, and man am I glad I didn't.
It all culminated on this Saturday morning, the day before Christmas Eve. I had 3 days off to hunt, but had to go it alone this morning. Oh well, I had high hopes that this day would be different. I didn't know just how different it would be.
We started out with the usual birds flying out of range, and Buck not knowing what to do about it. Then, all of a sudden, he goes on point not far out in front of me. Just locked up tight, in a horse shoe configuration. Rock solid. My dreams have finally come true, and my own pointer is on point. My heart was beating so hard, I thought that if there really was a bird in the clump of sage, my beating heart would flush it before I got close enough for a shot.
I managed to get to where Buck was pointing, and kicked the clump of sage brush, and out comes the single chukar. I automatically brought up the gun, slipped off the safety, and pulled the trigger. Wow! My first pointed chukar, with my own pointing dog. It just don't get any better.
This perfect situation happened about 9 AM, and Buck continued on pointing and holding birds, and I kept flushing and shooting. I sure didn't get a bird on every flush, but it didn't matter, as I was having the time of my life. Too bad Lynn wasn't here to share this fine time with me.
That one bird, one point, one shot, and one kill, was the one thing that started Buck on a journey to become one of the finest dogs that I have ever hunted over. I used him as a scale, for the rest of the dogs that came into my life from then on.
Well, as the day went on, we kept getting into birds, and our hunt brought us up near the benches dropping to the big Columbia River. Buck started making game, and would point and flag, (flagging is when the dog is not sure, and the tail moves just a little. Not rock solid on point), and point and flag, as he descended from one bench to another, going down towards the river. This was new to him, and he knew their were birds in the scent cone, but not sure just where. As we kept on dropping from bench to bench, I could tell we were getting closer to birds, by watching the body language of the dog.
I was being real careful and quiet, as Buck was now down one bench below me, rock hard on point. I was watching the dog, and watching for a rise, and not paying enough attention to where I was placing my foot, when I stepped on a loose rock.
I went sailing into the air, with my feet out front, in the prone position, and fell about 12 feet, down this cliff. It was as if it was happening in slow motion as I was falling. I landed on my back, and on a rock right below my left shoulder blade. I felt my ribs actually break, and the wind left me. Then I don't remember what happened for a bit. My next memory was I was on my hands and knees, with blood coming out of my lung, and into my mouth, I had a heck of a time breathing. I felt so tired, as if I had been sedated, and just wanted to lie down for a bit, and rest, take a nap, whatever. Then I heard this calm voice behind me saying, "You better get up, and get out of here, or you're not going to make it" This voice scared the daylights out of me, and I jumped to my feet.
Getting up that fast hurt like crazy, and now I just had to lie down and take the nap, I just had to, and when I started to lie down, the voice much louder this time, with a big booming voice, repeated " You have to get up and get out of here, or you're not going to make it". There was no one there, and to this day, the voice is still clear in my mind. It must have been my guardian angel. That is the only explanation I can come up with.
I then started to come to my senses, and got up, got my shotgun, and picked up my cap. I then climbed to the next level, but had to sit and rest when I got there. My left lung was collapsed, and I just didn't have any wind. While sitting there, I started to think about my dog, this dog that just started to point and hold birds. Man, I couldn't lose him now.
I heard the sound of foot steps in dry vegetation, way below me, and finally Buck appeared a couple hundred feet below, on a wide bench. I put the dog whistle in my mouth to blow it, but didn't have enough wind to make a sound. So, I took off my cap, and waved it back and forth. Fortunately, I was sky lined, and the dog saw me. He came straight up, and never left my side, the whole walk back to my truck.
It was a mile and a half, to two miles to walk, but I didn't want to think about it. Just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I had to hold my stomach in with one hand, as it hurt too bad to let it go. It turned out that the upper organs tore my diaphragm during impact, but I thought maybe my heart got punctured by the broken ribs. So I didn't really know how badly I was, or wasn't hurt. I know I was really feeling a lot of pain by this time.
I get back to the truck, soaked with sweat from the shock, and so thirsty, I could almost spit dust. I painfully retrieved a couple Pepsi's out of the cooler in the back, and opened one immediately. Took a couple swallows, and then got out the bottle of aspirin from the center counsel. I took 4 of them and the rest of the Pepsi, and opened the other can.
Now for the drive out, on the far bumpier road than I could remember. I had to hold my diaphragm in with one hand and steer with the other. My plan was to get to the highway, and a phone, to call for an ambulance. But when I got to the highway, and a phone booth, I was so cold, I didn't want to get out of the SUV, and it didn't hurt so bad, while driving on the highway, So I decided I could make it to the hospital in Ellensburg, and not call for help.
I continued on, and by the time I got to Ellensburg, the pain wasn't nearly so bad. So I decided to stop and call my wife and tell her what happened. I decided that instead of going to the hospital in Ellensburg, that I could drive home, and go to the hospital there. I told my wife, how long it should take to get home, and if I didn't make it in that time, to get Lynn, and come looking for me.
Well, I drove home, without incident, and by now, wasn't hurting quite as bad. My wife and Lynn were there waiting. I thought I didn't need to go to the hospital now, as I didn't feel that bad anymore. Hurt sure, but I have hurt before and nothing was serious.
They wouldn't hear of it, and off we went, to the hospital. Sign in, short story telling and off to the x-ray room. Then the Dr. comes in and they hurry me to a gurney, and plug wires and monitor up to me, and put me right next to the nurses station. They don't even let me into a room. Now, that just scared the hell out of me. I realized I was in trouble.
The Dr. tells me that my lung is collapsed and if it won't refill by morning, then they will have to put a needle the size of my little finger in the spot between my neck and shoulder on top, and hook up to a vacuum pump, so slowly remove the trapped air, that was not allowing the lung to re-inflate. If it won't re-inflate, then they would have to perform surgery, to separate the lung tissue, similar to separating saran wrap that clings together.
About 6:00 AM I felt this great feeling as my lung inflated, and I ring for the nurse to let her know, they can forget the needle and pump. About 11:00 AM, they tell me that I'm out of danger, and can go home. Now it will just take time to heal.
All I could think of was my dog had just learned what it is to point and hold birds, and here I am laid up and can't continue with this critical period with the dog.
Well, I suffered through Christmas dinner, and slept in the recliner, Sun, Mon, Tue, and Wed night. Because I couldn't lay down in a bed, as it hurt too bad. It felt a lot better to be up and walking around. I walked around the house on Wednesday, and several hours around the village on Thursday. By Thursday evening, I felt so good, and just had to get the dog back into the birds, so I called Lynn, and asked if he wanted to go for a couple days. He said he wouldn't let me go alone, so made plans to take off early in the morning.
We hunted the next three days, and had an absolutely great time. Buck never bumped a bird, and found plenty for us. Gosh, it was so much fun, and almost worth going thru what I did, to get to this point in time, after all the flushed birds. What a great feeling to have this come together for man and dog.
When Buck left the crate, and his feet hit the ground, he was looking for birds. He was nothing but business from then on, and gave me years of pleasure. I enjoyed him so much, I got another English Pointer. Little Jessie, a nice small female. This way, I could put one up to rest, and hunt the other. But I didn't do that very often, as they hunted so well together.
As time went on, I added another to the group. I got Heidi, a German Shorthaired Pointer. She started hunting with us when she was just 12 weeks old. She followed those big running English Pointers all over the chukar hills. I sure was good training for her, as she hunts like an EP. She goes where ever she has to and as far as she has to, to find birds.
Buck left for the happy hunting ground when he was ten. I think it was porcupine quills that killed him, and Jessie caught mammary cancer the following year.
Now I am down to the GSP, which has turned out to be the most awesome dog I have ever hunted over.
That's all I have for now. I've been promised a few more tales by some fellow chukin' fools, but they have yet to materialize. They're probably out scrambling over rocks instead of sitting in front of a damn computer like me.
So, until I hear from you, that will have to do it for now. In the meantime, you can read one of my dog tales while you contemplate spinning a yarn of your own.
- How To Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Academy of Alectoris Chukar
- Guns to Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Gear to Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Dogs for the Desert
- Where To Find Wild Chukar Partridge
- Hunt Strategies and Tactics for Wild Chukar Partridge
- Chukar Partridge FAQs
- Chukar Tales and Red-Legged Liars
- Weather Conditions and Forecasts for Chukar Country
- Chukar Partridge References